Happy New Year
One for All™
My first choice is One for All™ because it’s one bird food for all garden birds and all seasons, which removes some of the guesswork from seed selection. What I like most about it is that in my trials it attracted more different species of bird than feeding sunflower hearts on their own. Additionally, the peanut granules encouraged the birds to stay on the feeder and feed, which meant they were in sight for prolonged periods and I could enjoy watching them for longer. In contrast, Sunflower hearts – when fed on their own – encourage birds to disappear and feed out of sight and that’s (perhaps selfishly) less enjoyable to watch. One for All leaves no mess, which means there’s less sweeping up to do on the patio and that’s a bonus when the weather brings its worst.
One for All can be fed from a tube type seed feeder or freely from a bird table; however, I go against the grain and feed it from a sunflower heart feeder because that encourages more birds to cling and feed rather than wait in the wings for a vacant perch and feeding port. I also believe this open feeder releases the seeds' odour and somehow sends a nutritional signal to passing birds, which they quickly explore.
This mix looks great in a feeder and offers high-energy pellets plus black sunflower and sunflower hearts so, how could it possibly fail? It can’t is the answer. What I like most is watching the birds as they sift through the mix and switch from a piece of pellet and a morsel or two of sunflower or peanut granule. It's facinating to watch.
The oil-rich variety seems to trigger a less obvious feeding pattern and I feel that encourages a natural enrichment of sifting and sorting based on a bird’s daily demands for energy and nutrition. In my trials, I certainly see an increase in pellet consumption when the weather cools plus a charming size/variety of bird species ranging from Dunnock to Bullfinch.
I feel Winterberry works best from a tube type seed feeder and bird table.
The Huskfree Advance range
I’m cheating here because there are three bird foods in the Advance range; however, they’re all based on our time tested Advance base mix which was one of the first huskfree mixes available in the UK in the 1990s. The theory was simple, garden bird enthusiasts were beginning to feed the birds in large numbers but were unhappy about the mess waste husk was leaving on their patios and lawns so we created Huskfree Advance. As the years unfolded, we introduced dried mealworms to provide amino acid and suet pellets for their unrivalled energy and easy to feed properties.
What I like most about the Advance range is that it’s been steadily improved for over twenty years based on customer feedback. We’ve managed to hit a delicate balance between price and genuine huskfree seeds that leave no mess at the base of feeders because anything that drops to the ground is consumed by ground feeding Chaffinches, Dunnocks and other species that feed predominantly on the ground.
We laboured over the recipe for this unique mix and spent weeks thinking about its eventual name Golden Chorus. It’s hard to explain why it’s amongst my favourites, because part of its charm is its texture and aromatic blend of crumbly soft food for which we’ve become famous for it’s so very hard to manufacture! Each grain of Golden Chorus looks and smells delicious. I challenge anyone not to fall in love with it from the moment the bag’s first opened as it’s unlike any other bird food mix on the market.
I like to feed it from a bird table or soft food feeder. It’s a premium quality mix and I don’t scatter it around the garden as I want to be certain each morsel is appreciated. I suppose that sounds a little strange? It shouldn’t make much of a difference to me whether the birds appreciate the food on offer, but it somehow does when it comes to Golden Chorus because I know how much goes into making it.
When we launched OlymPECK to celebrate our 75th anniversary, the 2012 Olympic Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee we didn’t expect to still be blending fresh batches of it by 2020 – but we are. It’s not only amongst my favourites, it’s popularity in gardens across the UK has increased and I can understand why. It’s a complex mix of seeds and offers high-quality variety specifically to seed-eaters and notably finches who take naturally to rolling and cracking seeds with their parrot-like beaks to get at the kernel inside. Taking of seeds, one of the unsung heroes of bird seeds features in OlymPECK – Safflower seed. In the UK, we press Safflower for its vegetable oil and it seems our garden visitors know only too well that the effort to crack the seed will be rewarded with a high-calorie meal.
I’m not a big fan of species specific seed mixes but Native Finch ticks all the boxes for my garden guests. It was originally developed to attract Britain’s finches: Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chaffinches but Blue tits and Great tits seem happy to feast on its contents. It’s fantastic for finches, though, because the array of seeds offer huge variety and encourage natural behaviour – which for finches means using that parrot-like beak to roll the seed and eventually crack it open to free the kernel. Native Finch is naturally nutritious and oil-rich and contains another unsung hero of mine: hempseed. Hempseed is rich in essential fatty acids and a great source of protein and vitamin E.
Premium wheat-free wild bird food
I find that most of my fellow garden birders are quite happy to feed all garden birds and see little point in excluding certain species. However, if there is one bird many birders wish to exclude it’s the feral pigeon. It’s not enough that the pigeon can consume more than his fair share of seed he also is inclined to tell his friends where they can fill up too. No-one would mind the pigeon vacuuming the spilled seed that finds its way to the ground – beneath a feeder – but some pigeons will sit and occupy a feeding port for the entire morning or afternoon and that makes it hard for the smaller birds to access feed. After a few months of tearing our hair out we eventually created Premium wheat-free wild bird food and seems to offer everything a greedy pigeon isn’t looking for. A pigeon has one thing on its mind – wheat, wheat, wheat. So, we leave it out of the Premium wheat-free bird food. I have no intention of fully excluding the pigeons from my garden as that’s somewhat unfair. They’ll still find a few morsels to eat but they won’t occupy the feeding ports – they’ll bumble around on the ground like a dog trying to remember where it buried a bone but the other birds will feed freely and the pigeon will consume whatever hits the ground (saving me from sweeping the patio!).
I’m aware there’s an awful lot of hyperbole out there when it comes to describing bird foods. It turns out that Prosecto Insectivorous is a food much improved by science and nutritionists who understand the requirements of birds. Yes, it looks and smells delicious and the birds can eat every single morsel as it’s completely waste free and 100% edible; however, it has a beneficial Ca/P ratio and low iron count because it was developed to help feed birds with iron storage disease. It’s also high in protein compared to a standard seed mix and it’s certainly one of my favourite soft foods.
I feed it judiciously. I don’t just throw it out and hope the birds find it. I put it somewhere where I know they’ll come across it and I feed it to supplement the dry seed mixes I’m providing which are generally deficient in amino acids. I may even sprinkle a little Prosecto over the top of a standard seed mix to add extra goodness and boost the goodness being taken away by the birds.
Original Wild Bird Food
Even though this mix does contain wheat it’s worthy of a place in my Top 10 because it’s great value and subject to all the quality control processes at Haith’s, which means it’s super-clean and safe for birds. I would, however, chose to feed Premium wheat-free over Original Wild Bird Food because its seeds are finer and it’s wheat-free, of course.
We’ve so far raised more than £1,000 and some of that will be used to enhance the charities wildlife gardens in hope that a little solace can be found in the natural world at a time when we most need a friendly face or two. Birds need us, but we need them and I’ll be the first to admit they are an accessible gateway to the wonderful world of watching natural history go about its business.